When a Landlord Can & Can’t Enter Your Apartment

Most of the time, a landlord cannot legally enter a tenant’s apartment without their explicit permission. However, there are specific circumstances in which a landlord is allowed to enter a tenant’s residence. Even then, there are legal requirements and rules limiting what they can and cannot do. If these requirements and rules are not followed, they may be acting illegaly.

If you are trying to figure out when a landlord can and can’t enter your apartment, here’s what you need to know.

When a Landlord Can Enter Your Apartment

There are situations where a landlord can enter your apartment. Usually, they revolve around maintaining the property and safety.

However, landlords may need more than just a valid reason. There are other conditions that typically have to be met, ensuring your right to privacy is respected along the way. Most commonly, that will include giving tenants advance notice. More on that shortly.

Valid Reasons for Entering Your Apartment

In most cases, landlords can only enter your apartment to address issues with the property and to handle specific tasks. Precisely which reasons are valid do vary by state. However, in most cases, a landlord can enter your apartment to:

  • Address an emergency situation
  • Investigate a health or safety concern
  • Assess problems that may require repairs to the property
  • Handle needed repairs, property improvements, or property alterations
  • Inspect the apartment for damage
  • Allow an insurance agent to assess the apartment
  • Provide a tour to a prospective buyer (or new prospective tenant, if your lease is about to end and isn’t being extended)
  • Allow a mortgage representative to assess the apartment
  • Investigate possible rent or lease violations
  • Deliver a large package that won’t fit in the mailbox/mail area
  • Complete a move-out inspection
  • Perform a task that the tenant requested
  • Move forward with access that is granted through a court order
  • Issue an eviction notice (when accompanied by a law enforcement officer)

A landlord can also enter your apartment any time you explicitly invite them to do so, regardless of the reason for the invitation. Additionally, along with other actions allowed by local law, your landlord may have more rights to enter your apartment if the situation is spelled out in your lease, suggesting that the clause isn’t illegal.

Can a Landlord Enter Without Notice?

Even under many of the above circumstances, a landlord still can’t enter your apartment without giving you advance notice. Further, that notice commonly has to be in writing. A simple phone call, voicemail, or in-person chat isn’t enough in most cases.

How much they need to provide does vary by state. Generally speaking, the minimum amount of notice they have to provide is usually 24 to 48 hours.

The reason for the advanced notice period is that it provides you with a degree of privacy. You have the ability to secure or remove items you don’t want your landlord to see, for instance.

However, if your landlord is responding to an emergency, they may not have to provide any notice at all. For example, if there is a suspected gas leak in your apartment, immediate entry is necessary for safety. The same can go for a burst pipe, a fire, and any similar situations that make quick action a must.

When there’s an emergency, most landlords will leave a note after the fact stating that they entered your apartment. Additionally, they will outline why they had to enter.

Finally, landlords don’t commonly have to give notice if they have good reason to believe that you’ve abandoned the property. What is considered “good reason” may vary by state or might be based on individual judgment in areas where the term isn’t defined in any landlord-tenant laws.

Can a Landlord Enter My Apartment at Any Time, Day or Night?

Generally, no, landlords can’t enter at any time. Even if your landlord provides you with notice and has a legitimate reason, they can’t simply show up at any hour of the day or night.

In most cases, landlords can only enter a property (even with prior notice) during normal business hours. Precisely when that is could vary by state, but, usually, the approved hours will fall somewhere in the 9:00 am to 5:00 pm range, Monday through Friday.

Now, there are exceptions here, as well. If there is an emergency, the landlord can enter your apartment whenever the situation is occurring. For example, if a burst pipe is suspected, the landlord can come in immediately, whether it’s 2:00 am or 2:00 pm.

Additionally, if you give your landlord explicit permission to enter at a specific time, that also creates an exception. For instance, if a repair is necessary, the landlord asks if the repair can begin at 7:00 am, and you say “yes,” then they are allowed to enter at that time.

Can a Landlord Enter Without Permission?

Yes, a landlord can enter your apartment for a legitimate reason even if they don’t have your explicit permission. As long as the rules regarding proper notice are followed, they don’t have to secure permission from you. The notice itself is enough.

However, you do have the option to request a time or date change. Whether your landlord has to respect that request will depend on local and state law.

Similarly, if an emergency is suspected, your landlord isn’t required to provide notice or secure your permission. They are allowed to address the situation immediately, regardless of how you feel about the entry.

Can a Landlord Go Through My Belongings?

In most cases, no, your landlord can’t go through your belongings. However, they do have the right to interact with your belongings if necessary and under specific circumstances.

For example, if a repair is needed to your closet door, your landlord may have to move items that are in your closet. Usually, this is only permitted if moving or handling the items is needed to complete the repair or if your property could be harmed while the repair is underway if the items were not relocated.

Beyond situations where interacting with your items is a necessity to handle the task being completed, your landlord usually can’t go through your personal belongings legally. Exactly which circumstances are legal may vary by state, so you should review local landlord-tenant laws for additional clarity.

Can I Change the Locks to Stop My Landlord from Coming In?

No, tenants are not allowed to change the locks on their apartment to prevent the landlord from coming inside. Locks can only be changed with the landlord’s permission. Additionally, you’ll usually need to provide the landlord with a copy of the key immediately or allow the landlord (or a suitable contractor they select) to handle the process and provide them and you with new keys.

When a Landlord Can’t Enter Your Apartment

Aside from the situations listed above, a landlord usually can’t enter your apartment legally, even if they give notice. Notice only provides the landlord with entry rights when their reason for coming in is justified. They can’t simply walk aside to take a look around on a whim. If they do, it’s an illegal landlord action that could land them in hot water.

Now, it’s best to review local and state law, as well as your lease, before declaring that an entry by your landlord was illegal. Rules can vary from one municipality to the next, for one. For another, if there is a clause in your lease that outlines other reasons when your landlord can enter, that could be legally enforceable, as well.

What to Do If Your Landlord Is Entering Your Apartment Illegally

If your landlord is entering your apartment without proper notice or without a reasonable justification, your first step is usually to contact your landlord about the issue. Be calm and fact-oriented when you do, ensuring you avoid accusations or any other action on your part that may be perceived as hostile or excessive.

If a simple conversation doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll want to send a certified letter. Outline the instances where an illegal entry occurred and provide copies of local landlord-tenant law showcasing that the entry didn’t follow the rules. Additionally, maintain a log of all illegal entries to the best of your ability.

You can also contact your local housing authority. You might also be able to get a court order to stop the activity, or you may be able to sue your landlord in small claims court. In those latter cases, you’ll need solid evidence of wrongdoing, but it may be worth exploring if you have records showing illegal entries and that you attempted the address the issue before reaching this stage.